Business Monday

Local firms rich in generational immigrants, CEOs say, but deportation efforts worry some

Pedro Portal

This week’s question to the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: Roughly what percentage of your employees are first- or second- generation immigrants? Generally, how are they responding to increased enforcement efforts to deport those who are in the country without valid visas?

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My best guess is that around 80 percent of our employees in Miami are first or second-generation immigrants, as am I — and we are an essential part of the flavor, culture and fabric of our company. Although I have not seen or experienced any angst among our staff over the threat of increased enforcement efforts, I know that they empathize with those that are not as fortunate to have resolved their personal immigration issues. I am grateful, that for them, this is not a threat they need worry about.

Adele Cabrera, Regional Director, Starr Catering Group

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We have no first or second generation immigrants at The Commonwealth Institute South Florida.

Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director, The Commonwealth Institute South Florida

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Our community has a rich history of productive immigration, with so many first- and second-generation immigrants playing a critical role in our ongoing forward progress. The success that our law firm enjoys is attributed, in large part, to our ever increasingly diverse workforce of first-, second- and 10th-generation immigrants. Some of our attorneys and staff have reported an increase in anxiety and concerns among neighbors and friends as federal policy continues to shift. To be clear, these reports are not limited to those who are first- or second-generation immigrants. The concern about any shift away from humane and equitable application of our laws is not unique to those within our workforce who are new to our country.

Albert E. Dotson Jr., partner, Bilzin Sumberg

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Roughly 50 percent of the Council’s employees are first- or second-generation immigrants. These individuals and/or their parents have come to the United States through appropriate legal channels. In general, our staff believes that those who are in the country without valid visas need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. There may be extenuating circumstances that have caused them to remain in this country, or that have prevented them from attaining the necessary paperwork to remain here legally. However, undocumented immigrants who have committed felonious crimes should be deported. However, we are a democratic nation, and deportation without due process is unacceptable.

Elaine Liftin, president and executive director, Council for Educational Change

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Diversity is in Lionstone Development’s DNA. In fact, my family came from Argentina to build this business in the 1960s, and today, more than 50 percent of our company is either first- or second-generation immigrants. A workforce made up of a variety of backgrounds brings about unique experiences, diverse points of view and creativity, which we embrace every day and is key to our success. A company flourishes when it has this kind of edge.

Diego Lowenstein, CEO, Lionstone Development

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At least 50 percent of my team (the #CircleGladiators) are second generation, including me, from Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Venezuela. As immigrants who have been here and made the most of the American dream and contributed to the growth of South Florida, it’s horrifying to see groups of immigrants singled out as pariahs when the vast majority of immigrants — like any population — are good, hard working people who strive to be better everyday, knowing that America provides a freedom and opportunity second to none worldwide. Like or not, this is a nation of immigrants. And by the way, it’s also the 14th Amendment in the Constitution.

Suzan McDowell, president and CEO, Circle of One Marketing

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Living in Miami the majority of our employees are first- and second-generation immigrants. We have not heard much discussion on this topic. It has not been an issue.

Alex Rodriguez-Roig, president, Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade

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Our organization has a couple of staff members falling into this category, including myself. The general feeling is that deportation is inhumane and against the values of our country. A preferred method would be to nationalize those interested in staying and working, a benefit to our aging workforce that also increases revenues for the government. The entire communication of this plan to crack down on immigrants was executed without care or proper vetting.

John Tanzella, president and CEO, International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association

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Roughly 60 percent of our employees are first- or second-generation immigrants, most of whom came from countries that permitted legal immigration into the U.S.A. Thankfully, they are not personally impacted by the recent enforcement efforts in our community.

Faith Read Xenos, co-founding partner, Singer Xenos

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The Miami Herald CEO Roundtable is a weekly feature that appears in Business Monday of the Miami Herald. Recent questions have included:

▪ Long hours at the office? CEOs say how they avoid burnout

▪ CEOs prefer balance when dealing with a defiant employee

▪ The most important issue facing South Florida this year? CEOs say it’s traffic

▪ Have you been to Cuba? CEOs discuss business and travel opportunities on the island

▪ CEOs discuss their resolutions for the New Year

▪ CEOs: Trump, ugly politics among the biggest surprises of 2016

▪ CEOs’ top request for Trump’s first 100 days: ‘Unity’

▪ CEOs won’t tolerate ugly comments in the workplace

▪ CEOs assess South Florida’s economy for 2017

▪ Did Obamacare hurt your business? South Florida CEOs respond

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